Majority of People Around the World Agree: Big Tech Should be Held Responsible for Online Safety and Social Media’s Harms to Kids

13 February 2024

New report from Project Liberty Foundation surveyed 14,000 adults worldwide and shows that concerns about social media’s impact on youth are growing and extend beyond parents.


Project Liberty Foundation, a global non-profit organization founded by Frank McCourt, today released findings from a large-scale, global survey focused on attitudes about technology and social media’s impact on children around the world. Conducted by the Foundation’s research arm, Publics Around the World: Kids - and Parents - Need a Safer Internet” reveals widespread concerns and consistent agreement that social media companies - more than governments or individual users - should bear the greatest responsibility for the online safety of children.

According to the new report, based on a survey of 14,000 adults in seven countries –including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, people are deeply worried that social media opens the door to a range of harms for young people.

“People around the world are united in their concern about the dangers children are exposed to, every day, through the internet and the devastating impact social media is having on kids, families and communities,” said Frank McCourt, Founder and Executive Chairman of Project Liberty. “Enough is enough. Project Liberty was launched to build a better internet and healthier digital ecosystem where individuals have more control over their data and dominant platforms no longer addict, exploit and harm our children for profit. The harms are now obvious, it’s time to fix the internet.”

Across the seven countries polled, a median of 65% say they are “very concerned” that kids might be subjected to cyberbullying or harassment. A clear majority of those surveyed also worry about children being exposed to inappropriate sexual or violent content (64% and 63%, respectively).

“The cornerstone of Project Liberty Foundation’s mission is to build a better web and better world. To do so requires listening to the voices and experiences of everyday people, including parents, to better understand how the internet and social media are affecting individuals, families and communities,” said Jeb Bell, Head of Strategic Insights at Project Liberty Foundation. “Our findings reveal that parents and non-parents, alike, believe children should not be treated the same as adults online, and that there is widespread demand for features that make social media and other platforms truly safe for kids.”

Additional findings include:

  • Half or more of the countries polled believe the government also bears a “great deal” of responsibility for keeping the web and social media safe for all. This view is most widespread in the global south: Brazil (66%), followed by India (59%), and South Africa (57%). About half the respondents in the UK (52%) and France (50%) think the government should have a great deal of responsibility for ensuring online platforms are safe to use. Whereas, just 38% of U.S. adults believe the government should play a major role in regulating the internet and social media.
  • While parents agree that social media can open the door for harm to children, most parents acknowledge that online social connections can benefit young people. A median of 46% believe social media’s effect on kids has been either “very positive” (13%) or “somewhat positive” (34%). Notably, the bulk of public opinion lies somewhere between complete embrace and thorough denouncement of social media as a pervasive facet of young people’s lives.
  • Parents and non-parents agree that social media platforms should be equipped with better safety features that prevent exposure to harmful content and do more to protect the privacy of children’s data by default. Across all countries surveyed, there is resounding support for better design of social media platforms in order to promote the safety and well-being of children. Among the top priorities are technical protections that prevent computer algorithms from recommending inappropriate or harmful content to kids (a median of 71% say this is “very important”).

“This research demonstrates that even at a time of widespread division and polarization, there is broad, global agreement that something must be done to create a safer internet for our children and society at large,” said Tomicah Tillemann, the interim CEO of Project Liberty Foundation and President of Project Liberty. “A future internet, and the social media platforms that run on it, should provide people more control over their data and a voice in how those digital platforms are built and operate. Our children deserve this, and our future depends on it.”

For more information and to access the complete Project Liberty Insights 2024 Report please visit https://www.projectlibertyfoundation.io/insight-report.

Methodology

Project Liberty partnered with polling firm J.L. Partners to field an international survey of 14,220 adults aged 18-74 years from October 11-20, 2023. Participants were recruited by Cint from online survey panel providers in seven countries: Brazil, China (mainland), France, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.


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